Chapter 23: Increase the Awesome

Lauren Worley is the press secretary for NASA and one of the most incredible human beings I have ever met. We sat down last October in a little diner across from Headquarters in DC to finally meet and hug and have conversation in the midst of her busy schedule.

Melissa: Lauren, tell me about the projects you’re working on.

 

Lauren Worley: I’m the press secretary at NASA for my day job. I make sure the White House is up to speed on everything that is going on and that the White House Press Secretary has everything they need. The other part of job is I do all the press interviews for Administrator Charlie Bolden. If there was a third prong to that, whenever I come into work everyday I try to think “how could I make this a little more awesome.” Like we all do good work but how can we turn it up a little bit.”

Melissa: Increase the awesome. That’s your hashtag!

Lauren: Yes! That’s my thing. And I really believe that. Like that’s cool, so how can we share that with more people. Like, “Melissa worked really hard on this thing, how can I make sure the bosses know so she gets the credit.” It could be as simple as sending a thank you note. That increases the awesome to me or it could be something REALLY awesome like getting the President involved in something we’re doing. That’s what I’m doing professionally. I’m a political appointee, so I have this job throughout the president’s administration. In January 2017, I will no longer have this job and I think that’s actually helpful in keeping things in perspective because it reminds me I actually have to take care of me and nurture me as well. When you ask what are you doing right now and what are your projects, that’s what I really think about. I never traveled outside of the United States before 2012, so I’ve been really focused on traveling more and meeting people unlike where I grew up. I’ve really started to value my fitness and I’ve done some really ridiculous things over the past few years. I did a bicycle ride from San Francisco to LA. I did that in June 2012. I bought a bicycle in February 2012. I probably should have trained a little bit more. It was five hundred and forty-five miles. I didn’t do all five hundred and forty-five miles. A friend who was supposed to join me was unable to come, so I met new friends and it was a supported ride. It was incredible. And I just did a half marathon. I just trained for my first triathlon. That I never ever thought I could do. The real test is going to be I’m climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February and I don’t know anything about hiking.

Melissa:  Have you started training for it?

Lauren:  Sort of…

Melissa:  “In my head….”

Lauren: (laughs) I’m totally ready in my head. You know, I run and do some strength training and stuff. I’ll be ready.

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Lauren:  One of the other things that’s really important to me is nurturing those relationships that are close to me. I try to call my mom everyday. I went to a wedding for my friend who has been my friend since 1984. Stay in touch with those people who care about you, no matter what. It’s so important. It’s easy to get really busy and only think about career and all of these things but I’m like, “no, it’s not the most important thing.”

(an Avril Lavigne song comes on overhead and Lauren pauses to rock out)

Melissa: I’m not going to lie. I love Avril, she speaks to the ‘90s skater girl in all of us. So, I know you’re super busy. You’re doing all these incredible things for NASA and our country and also climbing mountains. How are you taking time to pursue those relationships in the midst of that?

Lauren: In 2011, I was working at a candle store. I lost a campaign in 2010 and it shook me to my core and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do anymore. So I’m working at a candle store and I’m staying with my brother and staying with friends and I was like “”well, what’s clear now is I need to move cities. Start out somewhere new.” Turns out my first internship advisor when I was in college worked here at NASA, so I sent him my resume...and I was like, “do they need someone to answer the phone...ya know at NASA?” And he was like, “Actually, we need a press secretary.” And he was like, “What is it that you do?” And I was like well actually that’s what I do!”

Melissa: (laughing) AND I ALSO WORK AT A CANDLE STORE.

Lauren: And I also work at a candle store. On the side. (Still the best job I ever had!) Long story short...they hired me to come work at NASA. They were like “we want you to come in. We want you to look for opportunities to excel. We want you to share your passion with other people. That’s why we’re hiring you. We’re not hiring you to punch a clock. You’re clearly not an astronaut or rocket scientist.” It’s been the most amazing experience. If I had not opened myself up to change. If I had not been real with myself in August of 2011, I would not have bicycled California. I would not have run a half marathon. I’m never going to take a day for granted. It’s made me think about what’s important, all the people. It’s opened me up to all of these amazing experiences. I’ve seen rocket launches, I’ve toured the world, I’ve met the President of the United States, I’m meeting you. I mean it’s just remarkable.